So perhaps your goal is to become a highly successful, confident and attractive. A fairly lofty goal but one that is achievable if you define those abstract concepts to make more tangible and concrete steps.
Maybe your three goals in this case are:
- To commit to a 4-times weekly training routine
- To add one impressive thing to your CV each month
- To refresh your wardrobe, with one new item per week
These three changes will improve the way you come across in person; they will build confidence, and they will translate to better progress in your relationships and your career.
You write down your goals; you feel great about them…
…and then real life kicks in.
The week that follows is your most tiring week yet. Work is soul crushing and highly stressful, and you don’t feel like you have got the willpower to start looking for more experience outside of the office or to take on more responsibility and training opportunity in work. You just need to ride the tide…
And meanwhile, you are coming home feeling so exhausted that you really don’t have it in you to train four times a week.
Not to mention that you’re feeling tight on cash and don’t want to buy yourself new clothes. Anyway, it’s winter, and it’s too dark when you get home to go out shopping.
And so you half-heartedly make an attempt at your goals before ultimately giving up on them. How many times has this happened in the past? How many times have you decided that you want to start a new training regime only for it to last one week before you giving up? Often you’ll even have spent money on a professional training program and will still find it doesn’t work for you well enough for you to stick at it.
How many of us have decided to improve our dress sense only to get bored of it after a few weeks?
How long have you been telling yourself you’ll find a new job?
The next question for us then is how we can take the aim and stick with it to make it happen. How do you make sure that you stick with that goal day in and out?
The Power of Passion
The first and most important thing of all is to make certain that the passion you’re pursuing is your passion.
As I said before, this is critical for the rest of this plan to work.
That’s because having a passion brings you alive. Did you know that people with passion are seen as being more attractive? More charismatic and more persuasive?
One of the things that we use to gauge charisma is gesticulation. If someone walks around a lot while they talk to us and makes large gestures, then we consider this a sign of charisma, and as such, we become instantly more likely to listen to them, to be inspired by what they’re saying and to ultimately be persuaded by their point of view.
And the opposite sex finds this very attractive.
Passionate people are exciting, they’re driven, they’re wired, and they’re filled with positive energy.
Waking up every morning and knowing exactly what you want to achieve is like switching on a bright light deep inside yourself that everyone else is attracted to like moths.
But it’s also what will make you willing to grind and put in the work.
Will Smith said that the secret to his success is simply that he is willing to stay on the treadmill longer than anyone else.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is unarguably one of the most successful people on the planet right now. He’s among the highest grossing/paid actors; he was recently voted the world’s sexiest man; he has conquered two separate careers (sports and acting), and there’s word that he’s thinking of going into politics. His social media campaign is also huge.
And how does he do it? One clue can be found by looking at his Instagram account where he will regularly post every morning that he is going to the gym. His pictures are him working out at his gym while it’s still dark outside, or of his phone alarm going off at 4 am.
In other words, this is a guy who is seriously committed to his vision of success. And his body is a living testament to that.
How does he get up in the morning at that time and work out?
Simple: he loves what he does. He believes in what he does. It’s what he’s all about.
If you’re struggling to stick with your goals, then there’s a good chance that you just don’t have the drive to fulfill them. Maybe you’re on the wrong path?
If you love what you do – truly love it – then you will be happy to spend more time on your business, to spend more money on your clothes, to put in hours in the gym or on the tarmac, to write that book, to save up to travel the world…
How to Stimulate and Embrace Your Desires
And there’s a neurological reason for this too. When we think something is highly important, it causes our body to switch into a different state. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in, our heart rate increases, our brain releases more dopamine and more adrenaline. We become more focused, more alert and more driven.
This happens when we’re fighting a lion when we’re talking to an attractive member of the opposite sex when we’re debating with a competitor when we’re working on our passions.
Conversely, though, when you are doing something dull – that your body deems unessential to your survival and your ability to thrive – you will find that your brain goes into its ‘rest and digest state’. You produce less dopamine, less adrenaline, and your heart rate slows down.
In essence, you become bored.
This is actually what causes ADHD – ADHD is caused by low dopamine which simply means that the children and adults with the condition aren’t sufficiently excited by what’s going on around them. They don’t find it important or engaging, and as such, they end up being distracted by other things and acting up.
Whether or not this is a full-blown condition, or perhaps a sign of intelligence, is very much open to debate!
But the point is that if you aren’t staying focussed on your goals, then you probably don’t feel passionate or excited about them.
This isn’t always an issue with the goals themselves, though – but rather that we sometimes feel as though the steps are too far removed from the goals.
This is where we can again use visualization to motivate ourselves.
So let’s say it’s cold outside and you need to head to the gym and do a workout to meet your goal today. That’s hard to do, and many people will be tempted to just turn off their alarm, roll over and pull the duvet over themselves!
To prevent this, what you’re going to do instead is to actively focus on the goal and to try and tap into that important emotional drive. Visualize it and then link it back to what you’re doing. Remind yourself why your short-term goal is just a stepping stone to the things you want most in the world.
So now you’re going to lie in bed and picture yourself looking amazing. Imagine how great it would feel to have flat, rock solid abs. Imagine how great it would be to have big arms if you’re a guy that women will love. Picture yourself filling out suits. Think about how much more confident you’ll become in the way you walk and the way you hold yourself. Think about the energy you’ll gain from being much healthier. How great would it be to come home feeling amazing at the end of the day?
Feel and picture the thing that drives you. And then you’ll find that you almost can’t just stay in bed.
Likewise, if you’re writing a book then try and focus on what that will be like. Imagine seeing your name printed in big letters on the top of your book. Imagine going for interviews. Imagine the money. Imagine the way it will affect your lifestyle. Then sit down and write that chapter.
Humans are thought to be unique in their ability to visualize and plan, and it’s what will allow us to make long-term strategies and thereby to accomplish much more incredible things.
Think about a rodent. A mouse will only do things that benefit it in the short term. Mice are driven by status, by hunger and by shelter just like humans because it is their evolutionary imperative. Thus they will go where the food is. They will move away from danger. And that’s pretty much it.
But we humans have the ability to use abstract reasoning. To speculate. To imagine and to plan. That means that we can come up with a strategy to be much happier, much wealthier and much more important.
It still serves the same goals though and the hormonal controls are still the same. To stay motivated, you need to remember why the small action you do now is actually in service of a longer-term goal. Otherwise, you’ll make like a mouse and do the thing that brings you the most satisfaction in the shortest time. Which normally means sitting down and eating cake…
If you’re finding it hard to keep your end goal in mind, then another trick you can use is to use an actual visual cue. And of course, the most obvious way to do this is by keeping things that inspire you around.
That means, for example, that you can keep a photo of someone who has your ideal body to hand. Or you can read books about highly successful people (more on this in a moment), or you can keep a photo of you when you were at your happiest on your desk. This will help you to keep that idea right at the forefront of your mind and will drive you to get up and go!
More Tips for Staying Committed
There are some more tips you can use to stay committed to a goal when the going gets rough.
One great one is actually something that comes from Jerry Seinfeld…
Jerry Seinfeld is a well-known writer and comedian who has enjoyed a lot of success over the years. Whether or not you’re a fan of his comedy, there’s no denying that he has maintained an impressively high output of quality material or that he is clearly incredibly hard working and self-disciplined.
And as it happens, Seinfeld’s self-discipline is no fluke either but something he has crafted using an effective and specific technique. Seinfeld’s secret to self-discipline was shared by software developer Brad Isaac who was getting into the world of stand-up comedy and wanted to know how to keep coming up with great material. He turned to Seinfeld for advice, and this is where the world first heard of his strategy…
‘Don’t Break the Chain’
Seinfeld explained to Isaac that his ability to keep coming up with high-quality material was a simple result of his determination to keep coming up with the material in general. As long as you keep writing, you should find you come up with enough fresh material to sustain any number of projects. What was crucial was to write every day no matter how good each day’s output was or how much work you got done on any given attempt.
And to make sure he writes every single day, Seinfeld uses a simple tool: a calendar.
The rule is simple: on days when you write, you get to put a red cross on the calendar. On the days when you don’t write, you don’t get too. After two or three days, you end up with a ‘chain’ of crosses, and that feels good because it shows how dedicated you’ve been while hanging on your wall for all to see.
If you don’t write, though, you don’t get to draw the ‘x, ‘ and you end up breaking the chain. That way a month’s worth of work can go down the drain instantly and you end up feeling surprisingly bad about it.
And this one little trick can be motivating enough to see you through all kinds of routines whether that’s writing comedy or sticking to a workout. The urge to ‘not break the chain’ will urge you on even when you lack motivation.
Uses and How it Works
This strategy actually shares a lot in common with a number of other self-discipline techniques that you can read about in other self-help books.
The idea of doing ‘just a little every day’ has been popular for a long time for example, and self-help author Tim Ferris often explains how he sets a low target of writing just two lines every day when he’s working on a book. Once you start working – even just a little – you tend to find it’s surprisingly compelling to carry on and do more.
So when you’re trying to do your 15 minutes of workouts, you can always ‘talk yourself around to it’ by aiming to do just 5 minutes, to begin with. It’s better than nothing, and you’ll find that once you’ve done five minutes, you end up doing fifteen.
The other reason that this strategy works so well is that it provides you with positive feedback which can end up creating a positive association between the work and reward. Even though it’s just across on a page, it’s enough to trigger the release of dopamine in the brain making it quite a satisfying feeling to finish.
Finally, the strategy is effective because it removes the focus from long-term/abstract goals which can often be demotivating. You aren’t challenging yourself to lose ‘x’ amount of weight and then feeling like a failure when you don’t see a change – you’re succeeding in building a long chain and seeing obvious progress in that goal. And when you get a long enough chain you’ll find your other goals sort themselves out…
Using this strategy to stick to a workout then, for example, you’ll know that all you have to do to get across and feel better about yourself is to do 20 press ups. That’s not too hard to motivate yourself to do, and then, as a result, you’ll get to place another cross on your chain.
The system can work with all kinds of goals and can also work in reverse (a cross for every day you don’t smoke). Why not give it a go and you never know: you may just end up starring in your highly acclaimed comedy series…